GOSPEL (Matthew 14:22-33)
Immediately after feeding the crowd with the five loaves and two fish, Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. And early in the morning Jesus came walking toward them on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.” Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” Jesus said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
Is there any story in the gospels which offers us a more apt description of our times than the one we read today? Is there a more perfect metaphor for our age than the image of the disciples being tossed about on a restless sea? Many of us can relate to the disciples’ fear that they have been abandoned by God and left to drift. Oftentimes we have acted like Peter and demanded a sign in order that we might believe. Thus, the question “Why did you doubt?” is one that many of us have pondered. Fortunately, Jesus provides us with a crucial clue to its answer. We are told that after he dismissed everyone, he “went up the mountain by himself to pray.” Indeed, throughout the gospels we are told that Jesus frequently sought out silence in order to pray. Is there a connection between silence, prayer and faith?
Without silence it is difficult to pray, and without prayer true faith is not possible. Those who do not value silence and prayer usually have no faith. And we can only learn about faith from those who regularly seek silence to practice prayer.
So the next time you are feeling skeptical about matters of faith, don’t panic. Check first to see if the foundation of a solid commitment to prayer is in place before you let yourself be convinced that Christ is nothing more than a ghost.
John O’Donnell, Halifax, NS
Living With Christ
Volume 20, August 1996